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Saturday, March 16, 2013

Genius Hour - For the Teacher!

"Quiet on the Set! We're ready to record! 3, 2 1 Action!" shouts the director.  The long wait was over...finally, the students were in front of the Green Screen, behind the camera and handling the teleprompter.

Last year a colleague and I wrote a grant for the "Green Screen Chroma Key Project"  The idea was to work with the kids to create a movie as a way to share something related to their learning.  Using a Green Screen background allows you to add whatever background you like in the editing process. It took quite a while just to order the "Green Screen," camera, and software.  When it finally arrived we were on our Winter break.   

The weeks passed and still I hadn't started the process with the students.  On Thursday of this week I decided to take the last hour of the day and have my own GENIUS HOUR.  I needed to take a chance, take a risk to figure out the whole "Green Screen" idea.  While students worked at their desks I began setting up for the video shoot.  It took more time than anticipated to set up the lights, lighting umbrella and camera.   After what seemed like an eternity, we were ready to begin.

The day before several students volunteered to write a brief script which they then quickly typed into the iPrompt Teleprompter app Waiting patiently and with anticipation the class watched as their volunteers started taking part in the process.  Camera people and teleprompter holders were selected and we were good to go.  After witnessing the process and first recording session  the remainder of students became interested in writing scripts.

A self-professed MAC girl, it wasn't easy getting used to the PC based Corel VideoStudio Pro X5.   After many failed attempts and spending a couple hours after school with a colleague we figured out the basics (which will be shared with the students at a later date).

When creating the student videos the day following the video-shoot, I asked each student to sit with me and choose their background pictures and music.  Text was added and then we uploaded the new video to Youtube. Unveiling the videos in class was worth the wait as the oohs & aahhs from the crowd affirmed this was going to be a project that would easily fit into many lessons.

Check out the first video and see for yourself the power of "The Green Screen Chroma Key Project!".

A True Genius Hour ends with Lessons Learned:
  • Check out all equipment right after purchase.  Do not wait - some items may be missing or broken (in this case - the lightbulb sockets).
  • Let the kids help - they are less fearful and more willing to take chances.  The students figured out some great features of the Teleprompter.
  • Lighting in a project such as this is important. You should use more than one!
  • Standing several feet in front of the screen works better than right against it.
  • Student Holding Teleprompter should be close to EYE level for actor.
  • Start with a small production (1 minute) which will be manageable & offer success.
  • Save Often!
  • Be patient.
  • Enjoy the process!
Sometimes we need to give ourselves the time needed to learn and try new things as well.  It shows our students that we are life long learners as well!

Have you given yourself a Genius Hour lately?  Please share! 

Photos edited using: 



  1. Great idea! The students should feel so lucky to have such cool toys and new avenues to explore for their future.

    1. Thank you! I really feel that there are so many possibilities. Can't wait for the students to discover them!

  2. I wrote grant for a similar project many years ago, which the kids love. They have gone from thinking it's magic to realizing that the school photography studio uses such technology and it's also used in movies and television. I continue to struggle with the lighting aspects. Would be curious to know what you used for lights and how they were placed. Love the Iditarod - so exciting and engaging!!

    1. I feel the power of this type of technology is underutilized and I hope to really find some interesting ways to use it in the classroom. Good for you for going the extra mile to write the grant!!! I wonder if my kiddos will make those same connections like your students.

      All the reading I have been doing talks about 'lighting'. (We purchased a whole kit that came with 3 lights, 2 umbrellas, 4 light stands and a stand for the screen itself. However 1 light was broken, 2 of the light sockets did not work.) What I read said to light the background then light the subject on both sides. We do not have enough room to do all that so I will play with lighting subject on both sides. If you watched my video you could see the subject was a little transparent on the left side - there was no lighting on that side.

      It will be fun to play around with to see what will yield the best results.

      Thanks for commenting!

  3. OOAL,MAC Girl(Obstacles Overcome at Last)! Love the way the kids took to this-you are so right, they have no fear...

    1. You are too funny - Couldn't have done it without you! I love how the kids get right involved as well. After all - it's for them! Thanks for your never ending help.

  4. Wonderful job bringing this technology to your classroom. The students are very fortunate to have such a teacher who continues to educate herself and others. Really enjoyed the lesson!!

    1. Thank you for your kind comments. I really do enjoy learning new things alongside my students. It's about modeling and being a lifelong learner!

      I appreciate you taking time to comment.

  5. Hooray! Thanks, as always, for sharing your learning with us, Nancy. I hope you have inspired me to do more serious work with green screens next year. (Ah, maybe even this year!) Last year we painted a wall green, but we didn't get very far with it because there was too much reflection. I think I need to just use fabric, like yours. I'm so excited to see what this experience grows into for you and your students!

    My latest genius hour learning is studying Understanding by Design. I need to get more rigor and relevance into my student-centered classroom, so I'm doing a little studying.

    Thanks again for your inspiration.

    1. Denise,
      I hope you get your Green Screen up and running. I know your Middle Schoolers will take right to it. I think if you repainted your wall with a 'flat' paint it might work as the reflection can be a problem as you stated. Fabric has it's own issues (wrinkles and such). The key seems to be lighting. Can't wait to experiment more.

      Can't wait to read about your "Understanding by Design". Several years ago there was a big initiative in our district and then as time went on it was not in the forefront of our PD. It makes so much sense though and I think I need to re-explore in more depth.

      Thank you for sharing your Genius with the world. Just think of all of those you have inspired! You are amazing and I'm thrilled to be connected with you!

  6. Nancy~
    This is fabulous! I can imagine all the ways your students will increase their engagement in their own learning as a result of this tool. Gosh, how different from how we learned in school, huh? Your students will remember ALL the experiences you create for them through the use of technology. I am impressed by your continuous learning and willingness to take risks to better your teaching for you students. Amazing!!

    1. Hi Mary,
      I often think my students will look back on fourth grade and say "we had a DOCUMENT Camera...can you imagine? or "And my fourth grade teacher thought the Green Screen was so cool". Although, I still think VERY fondly of the old film strip projectors - I can remember be selected to turn the slides after each beep.

      I'm sure that newer technologies will come along, but I'm thinking the kids will remember some of what we did because they had some of these opportunities.

      Like you, I totally enjoy learning new things. It's in our nature, don't you think?

      Thank you so much for commenting.

  7. Great job! I totally agree with you that using technologies can boost the quality of teaching. This project is a great success, thanks for sharing

  8. The Green Screen is incredible! I hope I'm part of it soon.

    1. You can be next if you like Sam...just get that script going!! So glad you're excited.

  9. What a great idea! The green screen gives kids the opportunity to experience so many aspects of technology...I love it! Madison really enjoyed the chance to be a "reporter", thanks for providing these experiences for your students Nancy.
    Lisa Rizzo

    1. Hi Lisa,
      I love that the Green Screen brings technology into the classroom, but I really LOVE how it enriches the learning experience. Working on these projects embeds the learning in the minds of our students. You should see how excited they get! Madison of course was the first one with her hand in the air! She did a fabulous job and helped us realize the importance of proximity with the prompter! Love having her in my class!

    2. Oh, and by the way....I know you provide many similar experiences for your own classroom!!! You are such a great teacher!

  10. Well done! Passion based learning for both students and teachers is a must in the 21st century. Engaging in the learning process is a critical piece to that puzzle! Keep up the good work!

  11. Hi Lynda,
    It is key for the kids to see that their teacher is a lifelong learner as well. Having the students see that their teacher needs time to solve problems is a lesson in itself, don't you think? Anyway, thank you for taking the time to comment!

  12. Your blog was referenced on twitter and I clicked over. So happy to have found your blog. :)I'm Brandee, your newest follower. :)
    Creating Lifelong Learners


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